A few years ago, on a gloomy rain-splattered afternoon, I received a call from my hunting friend Lloyd, asking if I was interested in going for a walk. I knew that when he said “walk”, he meant with a rifle on our backs, a later afternoon climb up the hills in search for a deer. Even if we didn’t find a deer, it would still be an opportunity to get some exercise after a dour week of low clouds and drizzle. Besides, what better place to be than up in the hills?
I was a bit lethargic and somewhat reluctant. The warmth of the fire and sport on television beckoned, but in the end, Lloyd persuaded me, and I agreed but on one condition – no rifle; just a walk.
So we went. We spied a couple of deer from the road that snaked inland, but we wouldn’t even contemplate shooting one because (a) we didn’t have permission (b), it’s illegal to shoot from a public road or vehicle for that matter and even if it was, it’s not our ‘cup of tea’, and (c) we just liked seeing them.
We continued on into the block we had permission to hunt and drove up the track. The cloud was heavy and occasional rain speckled the windscreen.
We parked the car and began our ascent. After a mere 15 minutes, Lloyd stopped, body taut, eyes intent across a gully. There on a clear spur was the rump patch of a deer. It was a stag, not a good head, yet a fine animal for meat, potential for the deep freeze and eventually dinner table.
We sat and looked with binoculars and glassed nearby hillsides. Then we spied another and a couple more in the gully. The others were hinds. We had an unwritten law to leave hinds, especially in winter when they would nurse their rapidly growing fawn through the season.
I always remember fellow hunter Bill, who’s also a scientist, telling me of winter shooting deer in the Hollyford area. The several-month-old deer he shot were alone because their mothers had been shot by helicopter gunships leaving the youngsters to struggle through winter on their own.
“They were no bigger than a good-sized Labrador dog,” Bill told me. “Without their mother, the young deer both physiologically and psychologically, struggled to survive the harsh winters and if they survived were poor animals.”
I digress. Back to our story – Lloyd set off. En route, he spooked a big hind and yearling. The stag saw the cantering hind and stared. Lloyd nestled down with a rest and with an accurate 150-metre shot, put the stag down.
Another stag – a spiker – trotted off, but we had enough. Properly boned out, that one deer was plenty, and besides, in the not-too-distant future, it would be an excuse to go someday soon again.
I’m glad we went that afternoon. Over the years, I’ve learnt that procrastination and debating whether or not to go on a hunt is never worth it. I remember a time when in one of those ‘should I or should I not hunt’ moments, I sensed my young Labrador insisting we go, and so we did. I rang the farmer and okayed it.
Jive and I headed up the country. I saw a hind and a yearling but left them. Instead, I sat and scanned the long gully with my binocular, and soon enough, I picked up a sow and some little ones. Shooting the sow would be insensitive with the five little piglets left motherless and the wee ones were too small. So, I sat content and simply watched. You’ll be amazed at what you see by just sitting and looking.
A movement up on the bush edge caught my eye – a boar trotting down the hillside to join the sow and family. I sneaked closer, got within 50 metres, leaned on a manuka branch, and shot the boar. It was about 100lbs in weight or 44kg. I’m glad Jive talked me into going that day.
Even when I’ve procrastinated, but have eventually gone, like with Lloyd or Jive, I’ve never regretted going for the hunt.
It reminds me of one of my boyhood heroes in the outdoors world, Ted Trueblood, who wrote for the American Field and Stream magazine. Ted was a keen trout angler, a competent hunter, and a top writer. He was a practical man and with a warmth that meant he cherished every hour hunting or fishing. He once penned some very sage advice on what I’ve been trying to explain: “Never say I’ll go tomorrow. When you get a chance to go fishing (or hunting), go. If you wait until tomorrow, tomorrow will drag into next week and next week will drag into next month and next month into next year, and someday it will be too late.”
Ted’s words were somewhat self-prophetic. He passed away at the age of 69 in 1982.
So, my advice to fellow hunters and outdoor enthusiasts is to always remember Ted’s words and go outdoors whenever you can.